Test drive your future
Before you rush into making a program switch, you’re going to have to do your homework. You’ll want to make sure the program you’re transferring to is one you’ll really be interested in. On top of that, you’ll want to know what careers this new program might lead to, and whether or not you’d enjoy working in that field. “There are a variety of ways students can test their area of study and potential career path, while pursuing their education,” says Browne. “There are part-time jobs both on and off campus, summer employment, volunteering on campus or in the community, study and work abroad opportunities, job shadowing, co-ops, and internships. All of these opportunities provide valuable experiences that allow students to see what they like and may not like about a variety of positions.”
You don’t want to have to change programs more than is necessary. Yvonne Collins and Nathanial Jewitt, career counselors at Carlton University, encourage students to think about their interests and what they want their future to look like. “Clarify your careers goals and work backwards to find a program that will support your future career vision. Think about your interests. Which electives did you like? What did you like to study in high school? Audit a lecture and get a taste of what the program might be like,” says Collins and Jewitt.
Ultimately, the course you choose to switch to should compliment your strengths, or help you develop strengths you’d like to have. “Sometimes I think there’s this pervasive thought that if it’s hard for you, somehow it’s more valuable, and I don’t know where that comes from,” says Green. “But I think that working to your strengths is going to make the whole university experience a lot more enjoyable, successful, and hopefully help you make a good decision about whether to proceed in that program.”
Keep in mind
Once you’ve found the course you’re best suited to, you’ll have to find out what steps you need to take to transfer over (that’s right, more homework). These steps are particular to every program and university, so you’ll have to talk to an academic advisor or someone in your faculty about what’s going on. “Find out if you have the grades and meet the requirements for the new program, and find out about deadlines,” says Collins and Jewitt.
It’s important to know not only what the deadlines for applying are, but the deadlines for dropping your current courses as well. “Students need to be aware of the different academic deadlines in terms of dropping courses, because whatever goes on your transcript is going to stay there,” says Green. “Whatever grades remain on the transcript will be relevant, and many programs will look at your average and your past academics to decide your admissibility.
“You really need to talk to people and get some academic advice in terms of how long it would take to complete the program you want to go into, how much of what you’ve done is relevant to the goal, and what are the time consequences. The time it will take to complete the new program is certainly important, but if you’re confident in your new goals, then it can certainly make sense to make those changes,” says Green.
Deadlines make the timing of your switch very important. If you do your research early, you can save yourself a lot of stress when you finally decide to apply to a new program. “My decision to switch into business tech management was made much later in the summer than most students, and as a result, I wouldn’t know if I could switch until almost a week before school began again. I also had to wait until results from my summer course were released before I could be certain if my application would be considered. Ryerson made it easy in that the BTM office became my one-stop to get all my questions answers. But it was nerve-wracking having to wait in suspense and having to wait for the application to make its way down the process.”
It’s going to take a bit of soul searching and research to truly find out where you’ll excel the most in school and in the workforce. But it’s a small price to pay in the long run if it means you’ll end up in a career you love. Collins and Jewitt give students three pieces of advice to help them along their journey of discovering their perfect fit. “Remind yourself that switching your major is not a sign of failure; trust your curiosity and interests to guide you. Do your own research to help clarify your interests, strengths and where you hope your degree will lead you. Finally, seek assistance from on campus supports—like your college or university’s career centre—to give you information, so you can be supported and make a well-informed decision,” says the counselors.
There are career centers at every school in Canada that exist for the sole purpose of helping you navigate these kinds of life transitions. Beyond that, the best thing you can do is to talk to people about your choices. Friends, academic advisors, career counselors, faculty members, and even your great-grandma can help give insight into the program you’d most thrive in.
But if you’re not happy in your course, making the switch can change your entire university experience. It definitely did for Cornthwaite. “Even if you’re halfway through a degree, it’s better to switch and do something you enjoy than be stuck doing something you hate for the rest of your life. I don’t regret my choice for a minute. It was the difference between spending my Saturdays crammed into a library cubicle trying to stay awake while reading a dreadful novel, and spending my Saturdays barefoot in the studio listening to Bon Iver while I paint.”